Saturday, August 09, 2008

Developing our future leaders

At the beginning of the summer, Marcus Martin, of Education is Freedom informed us at Central Dallas that we would be recipients of two interns through the Mayor's Intern Fellows program and let me know that I would get one of them.

My intern, Michael, was an extremely quiet guy when he first started working this summer. With our recent staff cutbacks, I was very excited to have been granted a free intern (sponsored by another corporation) but because of his quiet demeanor, I wasn't quite sure how to use him at first.

We started him on several administrative tasks then, as the summer progressed, he helped with our "Urban Experience" teen program. He seemed to open up as the summer went on. I admit, I felt a bit of pride and success when I saw a small grin creep across his face or heard a small chuckle from him. By involving him in our Urban Experience program, he also got to know other teens that I've worked with for many years and quickly became one of the group.

Yesterday was Michael's last day. We attended a lunch banquet sponsored by the city of Dallas, AT&T, and Education is Freedom. The banquet celebrated the first year of the mayor's vision of pairing kids from low-income schools with new opportunities and connections in order to "...produce a sense of aspiration, to give kids a chance to see what options can be later in life."

As I listened to the experiences of other teenagers participating in marketing analysis, law firms, and other corporate internships, I wondered if Michael missed out by not being at a company that could give him "bigger" career experiences than our non-profit.

Last night, however, I spoke with his grandmother. As she and I talked, she explained to me…sounding somewhat disappointed…that Michael has an overly quiet personality. She explained that she and his dad have really tried to get him out of his shell. She went on to talk about how this summer has really been good for him. She said he comes home happy and she has seen how much it has helped him. I assured her that he has now been sucked into the group of teens I call on to do different things--volunteering, college trips, and such--and that Michael's internship was only the start of a long-term access to opportunities. She seemed thrilled.

Though I often try to convince people that our education department needs more funding and needs to be allowed to grow, I don't think even I realize how important our work with kids and teens really is and how much impact it has on their development and their future.

I am very impressed with Mayor Leppert's vision and implementation of that vision. The Mayor's Intern Program provides students with the opportunity to interact with top of the line corporations and help them gain experiences that will more than likely influence their future careers.

Though I know that having high school students work at a company for the summer may sometimes seem like it could take more effort than provide benefit, I truly hope that more non-profits and corporations sign up so that next year becomes an even bigger program. I would love to see efforts like this begin in other cities and towns as well (that's a hint to all of you out there with connections!! :) ).

All of our children deserve the opportunity to "dream and envision who they can and will one day become."*

*(taken from the mission statement from our After-School Academy).
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